Monday, July 4, 2011

Let Them Be Bored

I grew up as an only child, and although I always had a ton of friends, and I had cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents I saw frequently, I do recall the gaping face of boredom I spent many a long day staring into. Metaphorically...there was really no face...anyway...Sometimes I was stuck home and none of my friends were home. Or my mom couldn't drive me anywhere. Or there was nothing on t.v. (is it any wonder with only 5 or 6 channels???). Or I had no new books, or no one was around to play a game with me, or whatever. I spent quite a bit of time being b-o-r-e-d. On the plus side, I had to amuse myself. Learning to amuse oneself is a pretty important life skill to have.

The boring hours of my childhood are not the ones that stand out all these years later, of course. The birthday parties and sleepovers and family outings and vacations and other fun times are what remain as more vibrant memories. But still, being bored has its place. I think parents need to allow their kids to be bored once in awhile because is it reasonable to lead them to believe that someone will always be there making sure they have something to do? If there is one thing that drives me nuts it's a kid who needs someone to constantly entertain him. 

Of course these days kids have much less opportunity for boredom. They are scheduled day in and day out with play dates and sports and other activities. (Although none of my kids are currently participating in any organized activities). Plus there's a zillion t.v. channels, and if there's nothing showing right now that you like, just try OnDemand or NetFlix. Or put in a BluRay. And then the video games and the internet and the constant ability to get a hold of friends thanks to cell phones. And the toys...well I do have 4 kids but geez Louise! I had an eensy weensy little bitty fraction of the toys my kids have. Despite all this, and the fact that they have each other to play with (although, sadly, no neighborhood kids), sometimes one of my kids will complain of boredom. Which is generally the time to assign more chores. One of the reasons I banned them from television this month is because I want them to experience a little more boredom. I think boredom fosters creativity. I think it's good for 'em.

All that being said, now that I'm a grown up, I don't think I can remember the last time I was bored. Who has time for bored? Sure there are times I'm a little restless, or I'm caught at a standstill because there are just so many things to do around the house I don't know what I should do first. If I'm doing something I want to be doing, there are a million things I should be doing. If I'm doing something I should be doing, there are a million things I want to be doing instead. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything I need and want to do. There is always always always a meal that needs to be prepared, dishes and laundry to do, phone calls to make, a diaper to change, floors to sweep, lists to make, organizing and planning to do. And if I'm taking a break from all that then there are books to read, the internet to peruse, writing to do, channels to surf, walks to take, etc. etc. etc. If I'm away from home and there's nothing to do, I don't call that boredom, I call that bliss.  

So I'm wondering, is boredom important for adults too? Or is it just a matter of perception? Quiet, thoughtful times are now enjoyable to me. Maybe I learned that because I had ample opportunity to be bored as a kid.